Monday, March 4, 2013

The Big, The Bad & The Ugly

We were out doing some shopping and thought that I'd make a quick stop into Cabela's to see what they had in their Bargain Cave.  While I didn't walk out with any big purchases (a good thing), I did find bags of rabbit scraps in their fly tying section.  It had good sized chunks of hides in all colors for 3 bucks a bag.  Anyone that ties a lot of rabbit streamers like myself knows that those little bags add up - I figured I'd take a chance and see what I could get out of these "scraps".  I picked up 2 bags and what you see here is what I got out of one of them.  Time to start browsing for some new patterns and logging in some hours at the tying bench.

The bags came with rabbit pelts dyed in all colors
After about an hour, I was left with perfectly cut and packaged zonker strips.  Not bad for a $3 investment.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

So after a long hiatus, I'm glad to announce that I'm back.  A relocation, a new job and a new son have put my fishing endeavors on hold for a little bit, but it looks like I'm ready to get back into the swing of things.  2013 finds me in Chicago, farther from my native Catskills than I've ever been before.  I do happen to find myself within 2 hours of some of the premier trout, salmon and steelhead fishing that the midwest has to offer.  My first order of business was of course to build a new fly tying/rod building table.  This puppy is going to get a lot of use over the next couple of weeks as I start prepping for the Wisconsin opener.

I could have gone out and dropped a couple hundred on a bench from a retail place, but with a new expense (baby) to account for, I figured why not make one for under $40?  Stay tuned, more to come.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

PA & the new Streamflex

Hey guys,

After finally unpacking the moving boxes, I had a couple of hours to kill and decided to see what some of the PA creeks close by had to offer.  I went out with my 10' 3 wt. Streamflex and figured I've bust out some of the coils from last year.

Fishing was slow to start.  There were a couple of guys using worms and corn that I passed by, none having any reel luck.  I threw on a soft hackled pink AC worm and an extended red bodied nymph AKA the good old San Juan.  On my first drift I managed to hook into a nice fat rainbow.  I knew I was in trouble when I heard "CRACK".  My rod must have had a crack in it and that's all it took.  I did manage to land the fish and was kicking myself for not bringing a second rod with me.  The rod broke a couple inches above the cork, and I figured that I could either go home and cry about it, or keep on fishing.  I tucked the reel into my waders and started casting my now 8'6" streamflex.  I did manage a couple more fish which made the day bearable and I guess I'll be  calling Greys tomorrow.  Such a bummer as I was in Lancaster yesterday.  All but one took the AC Worm.

Weird, but this fish's belly was really soft, almost empty.

The new "5" piece

*Well I thought that I would add that I contacted Greys/Hardy on Monday and they managed to ship out a new butt section so that I would be able to have it with me for my trip to the Catskills this coming weekend.  With a broken butt section, the rod maker inside me started to wonder what could be done.  I stuck the handle and reel seat into a pot of boiling water (even a heat gun will burn cork) to loosen it from the glue and epoxy.  10 minutes later I was able to slide off the cork grip with minor damage.  The cork rings came apart in a couple of sections, but that can easily be fixed with wood glue.  I used my caliper to determine the correct bore size for the "new" butt section and then drilled out the remaining graphite blank that was still in there.  After some epoxy and wood glue to secure the hardware, voila!
I now have a perfect 9' 3 wt.  Once the new butt section arrives, I'll be able to have a 10' 3 wt. that can be adjusted to 9' when space is an issue.  If anyone has any questions on how to do this fix (you may have a broken rod laying around) let me know. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wedding Season

I just got done tying up part of Megan's order for her upcoming wedding.  Megan is going with a very casual setting and thought that the natural tones in these boutonnieres would really add some distinct character to the men.  After some back and forth, we decided on 2 different boutonnieres, one style for the Groom & Groomsmen and then another for the Fathers.  She has been a pleasure to work with, and I can't wait to get these out to her.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bamboo - no I don't have a pet Panda

PHASE 1: Tooling up
I've been building graphite fly rods and restoring bamboo fly rods for years. I don't know what finally decided to get me to bite, but I decided that I am going to start manufacturing bamboo fly rods from the ground up. After the restoring that I've done, I didn't have many doubts about being able to craft a beautiful rod, but could I make a functioning rod?

I did a little research and immediately saw that this was no small project. The amount of information out there on different tapers, actions, methods of planing, heating and flaming bamboo seemed overwhelming. That was the easy part. I soon found out that one does not walk into Home Depot to buy materials to start making blanks on day 1. Unless you have the money to drop on specialized tools, the majority of makers out there craft their own. I decided to make a set of planing forms out of maple to start. I would need one set of rough forms for getting the strips within the ballpark for their final planing. The final forms are much more precise and need to be accurate to .001”, that is a small margin of error.

The planes were fairly easy to assemble, but needed some finishing to make sure that they were perfectly flat and true to form. Once they were all set, I had to groove out my forms. Since there are 6 strips in a standard bamboo rod, 360 degrees around, each strip has to be cut to a 60 degree angle. I needed to make two tools for this. A 60 degree bit plane as well as a 60 degree file plane. The bit plane would allow me to make quick progress while the file plane would be used to clean up the grooves.  There were a ton of resources out there to help me create these tools, and I'm extremely happy that phase of the process if over.  As of now I've managed to cut the grooves in my rough planing form. I am waiting on a 60 degree contact point for my dial indicator before I start grooving out my final forms. With the need to be so accurate, I want to make sure that I am exact to .001”. Once you take out wood, there is no going back. Now its time to get some bamboo and get splitting.  Stay tuned, I'll keep posting progress.

60 Degree Lathe Bit Plane & File Plane

Unfinished Final Form (Left) & Rough Planing Form (Right)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Battle of the Vests - Simms G3 vs. Patagonia Guidewater

I've been using for the past season a Simms G3, but recently decided to make the switch and try out the Patagonia Guidewater Vest.  Both vests have the same MSRP, $200 USD.  The Simms is certainly a very cool looking and well designed vest.  I think the website boasts 22 pockets, which never left me wanting more space.  I fit 6 fly boxes in there without a problem, as well as all of my other tools and gear.  My only downside to this vest is that it never quite felt comfortable.  It's molded to shape, which certainly helps the fly boxes fit in their places, but always left me feeling like I was part of a SWAT team instead of enjoying a day on the stream.

The Guidewater vest arrived today, and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was from the get go.  The vest itself feels like you're hardly wearing anything at all.  I immediately tried to stuff my boxes and gear in there, all of which fit without a problem.  Like the Simms, it has plenty of straps, holes, and clips for all of your tippet spools, forceps and other gear.  Both vests also boast a full back pocket, perfect for holding those larger items, which in my case, consists of a bottle of Gatorade, a sandwich and some dog biscuits.  The only thing I'm cautious of is that many of the pockets are mesh lined.  I'm hoping that they will hold up, otherwise this will be making a trip back to Patagonia.  The Guidewater also has curved pockets which are supposed to help with the natural curvature in your body, and they seem to do a good job of that.  I'll post up a report when I finally get to fish it.  As first impressions go, if I were to see these two side by side in the fly shop, despite the G3's really cool look, I think I would go with the Guidewater.

Monday, March 7, 2011

First outing of 2011

I got the chance to get out this weekend with my good buddy Brandon Alexander of Catskill Fly and Float with hopes of swinging big streamers for big fish on the West Branch of the Delaware River.  Hours before we were going to leave, they cranked it up to 1700 cfs (400 cfs would be ideal) leaving us scrambling for a plan B.  With ice clearing up on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, we decided to head to Trout Town, USA.  We were met with some showers and water barely above freezing.  The fish were lethargic for sure, and we pretty much had to put our flies right on their noses.  We managed to hook up with about 6 between the two of us, Brandon netting one on a streamer, with all of mine coming on small patterns.  I lost a really nice fish as he broke me off on a rock a rods length away from me.  A size 18 black birds nest seemed to work well for me.  In a few weeks the fishing will be picking up, but a day like this is exactly what I needed to beat cabin fever.  For information on the flies I was using, be sure to check out my Fly Shop page.

We certainly had different view on how to fish

My first trout of 2011
A nice holdover
Brandon proving that fish will hit a streamer in cold water

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tying the "Sprite" AKA "Lemon Lime"

Here is a sick pattern for spring and early summer.  As soon as the Ryacophila (green rock worms) start showing up, tie one of these on.  I tie these in size 10-16.
In fact, instead of those lame ads that Sprite has, they should make a fly fishing themed commercial for all of us die hards out there.  Simple concept, fish one of these and you'll catch more of these:
And on a separate note, all of this springtime gear preparation has me excited to get a fly rod in the hands of this little monster.
She's only two, but you can be sure that in a couple of years she'll be fishing alongside the dog she is roughing up.

Tying the Tungsten Egg Fly

This may be the last egg patten that you ever tie.  Here is an easy fly that you can tie in under 2 minutes and catches fish year round.  I find it especially effective in the late fall, winter and early spring.  Whether it be for steelhead, big browns or football shaped rainbow trout, this fly produces.  In the winter, it's like candy for steelhead and resident 'bows.  The tungsten bead really helps get the fly down along the bottom where natural eggs drift, and is deadly when fished in tandem with a stonefly or a dead drifted streamer.  Tie a couple and try it out.  I promise you that you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cabin fever anyone?

It came and went.  The one nice day that gets you stirring just as a bear awakening from hibernation.  We had all accepted that winter was going to be a long cold one.  Then out of the blue we get a sunny, windless 50 degree day.  Before we can even think about getting our gear out, its gone.  We've all experienced it before.  I've tied more flies than I can count, built up new leaders and reorganized my fly boxes and I still can't fish.  Heck, I've even tied a bunch of fly orders for other people, but what I really can't wait to do is get out on the water.  Cabin fever seems to have really gotten the best of me this year.